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Boarding School Spotlight: The Webb School

When considering boarding schools for your child, you really need to be honest with yourself and consider which school is the right fit, advises Matt Anderson, director of operations in admissions for The Webb School, a Tennessee-based boarding school for students in grades 6-12. That's why he encourages prospective boarding school students and their families to examine not only the academic programs offered but the overall culture and feel of the school. "That will really help you learn if your child will enjoy living there," he says.

A College Feel
When it comes to The Webb School, a long tradition of honor and integrity is what the school hopes visitors and potential student residents feel as soon as they step foot on campus. Founded in 1870, it's the oldest continuing boarding school in the southern United States. Set on 150 acres in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, but still maintaining a small school feel with only 300 students (about 100 of which reside on campus), The Webb School offers a supportive environment that emphasizes college readiness.

By offering an array of advanced placement courses, incorporating study hours into the daily routine, and using a hands-on approach to learning, The Webb School epitomize the importance of rigorous academics, one of the reasons many parents choose to send their children there. "Sometimes, just the structure of our environment, especially in our small environment, can make a difference for a student as they learn positive study habits," says Anderson. "We also have an academic support program for those with slight learning differences."

As a result of this strong work ethic, students at The Webb School typically score higher than the national average on the SAT and are accepted into the nation's most prestigious colleges and universities. In fact, 95 percent of the this Tennessee boarding school's class of 2007 were offered a merit-based college scholarship, amounting to a combined $1.9 million in scholarship award money for the graduating class.

Family Involvement
Especially for students who reside on campus, there is a natural concern among parents who live far away and can't be with their children each day. Like many top boarding schools, The Webb School tries to ease fears by keeping parents involved and informed. "We really believe in a partnership with parents," says Anderson. "Each student has a faculty advisor who is in close contact with that family. The advisor is in touch with a student's academics as well as how they are doing socially at Webb." In addition, progress reports are detailed to help parents understand exactly how their child is excelling or under performing.

A Home Away from Home
To balance out any feelings of homesickness, The Webb School offers a tight-knit community. "Webb students enjoy the positive influence of working and living with teachers who not only care about their academics, but also what type of adult that child will become," says Anderson. Of course, the boarding school students at The Webb School are also pretty busy with a full schedule that's packed with not only academics, but extracurricular and social activities as well. Here, Anderson provides a glimpse into a typical day for a Webb student:

  • Boarding students wake up and enjoy a short walk to breakfast before heading to their first class. (Classes are spread out among three academic buildings.)

  • There is a chapel program four days a week during the third period of the day. Chapel is a combination of a short church service and home room/assembly.

  • At lunch, students can eat freely with their friends, but also enjoy building camaraderie with their advisor and advisor group during advisor lunch on Tuesday and Thursday.

  • Classes are over at 3 p.m., but students can attend a brief extra-help session if they need to.

  • All boarding students are involved in an afternoon activity, such as a sport, the drama program, or a fitness activity.

  • Dinner follows, along with some free time.

  • Then students begin study hours.

  • After study hours, students can head to the gym or just hang out in their dorm.

  • Fourth meal, an opportunity for a late snack, is a hit.

  • Then finally, lights out at 10 or 11 p.m., depending on the age of the student.

  • Weekends provide a chance for busy students to kick back a bit, or participate in social outings and activities including movie trips, shopping trips, restaurant outings, as well as concerts or plays and other cultural offerings offered in Nashville, which is only an hour away.

    Overall, The Webb School provides its boarding students with a college-like experience, but with the supervision, support, and nurturing environment that's needed at the junior high and high school level. Says Anderson, "Webb has the 'Character of Home."'